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On Project Directors and Lead Designers

Chris Avellone


From a multi-part question on Twitter.


How do Project Directors and/or Lead Designers get selected?


To clarify the hierarchy at our studio, a Project Director isn't necessarily a designer, and at Obsidian, a Project Director is above all other disciplines except Feargus, who is all-powerful, even if he might debate that.


At the moment, we have four project directors - one from design (Josh Sawyer), another from design (me), one from programming (Rich Taylor), and one from art (Zane Lyon). In the past, Project Directors have been from production (Feargus on DS3, Chris Parker on AP), and sometimes the Project Director on a project is instead the Lead Producer (Kevin Saunders on Mask of the Betrayer).


Project Directors are selected based on their ability to hold or create the vision for a project, motivate and inspire the team, and their ability to focus the game to the vision and the game pillars. Any individual on a team who has demonstrated these qualities at a senior level as they've risen through the ranks in their discipline (usually to lead status) is considered a candidate for Project Director. Rich Taylor, for example, consistently demonstrated strengths as a lead programmer, and also demonstrated good judgment and decisions on how to go about making the game he was leading (Mask of the Betrayer, Storm of Zehir, and now Dungeon Siege).


Lead Designers are selected for much the same reason - they're usually senior designers who've shown the same strengths in upholding the game vision, ability to motivate and lead a team, and can manage effectively. Like other lead roles, Lead Designers are not necessarily chosen for their design ability, and they may not be the best designer in their discipline, they simply need to understand the design pipelines, understand the toolset and its breakdowns, and how to manage a team - this is because leads spend more time managing the designers in their discipline than doing actual core design work. If they excel in design, as Josh does, then that's a bonus.


More answers on this topic to follow.


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